Brendan Smith Un Brie Lievable

Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith pulled a ‘Joe Jacob‘ last week by announcing that the government would use European Union funding to buy 53 tonnes of its own Irish cheddar and distribute it for free from November 15th next. This initiative, which has been running since 1987, is funded by the EU’s food aid programme.

Please do not be duped, this is not a demonstration of a soft sympathetic caring Coalition Government, but rather a “social measure” whose primary objective will have the effect of reducing intervention storage costs of cheese at EU level.

Coalition Cheddar For Unemployed Plebes

This cheese scheme has been running for the past 22 years and the overall budget programme has increased from just €100 million in 1988 to €478 million for member states this year.  Ireland’s share of this budget is €818,816, or approximately 0.17 per cent.

This cheese will be available for charities to collect from stores in Clondalkin, Co Dublin; Portlaoise, Co Laois; Kilmacthomas in Co Waterford; and Cobh and Togher in Co Cork sometime after November 15th next. Extra costs will be incurred by charitable organisations attempting to transport this valuable commodity back into Co Tipperary in the form of motorway tolls. One way however to get around this extra toll cost would be to use garda drivers. Under section 62 of the Roads Act 1993, interestingly enough,vehicles driven by members of an Garda Siochana are exempt from motorway tolls, e.g. Government Ministers cars.

More than €750,000 in EU funding will be spent on this cheesy scheme, with a total of 167 tonnes of this product to be distributed in boxes of 12 x 1kg blocks. The total amount of cheese to be distributed works out at about one slice of cheese for each of Ireland’s present adult population.

Brendan’s announcement would be hilariously funny, were it not that economic matters are so damn serious in this green and present land, which is just a few months away from intervention by the dreaded International Monetary Fund, who will soon be manning the desks of the Department of Finance.

In his official press release last week, Brendan’s cheesy quote is the exact same wording he used in 2009:- (I) “commend the work of the many charitable organisations who are working on the front-line to bring what comfort and relief they can. I am glad to be able to help their work in such a practical way.” ( Who is this ‘I’ he talks about?)

The only difference between the two press releases are that last year’s headline was entitled: “Minister Smith announces distribution of free cheese to help less well off in society.” This year’s press release was changed to read:- “Smith announces Special Scheme to help people in need this Christmas.” Department staff obviously decided to change the headline this year, to portray this cheesy scheme as some brand new altruistic measure being brought forward by a sympathetic and caring government, to assist in making this Christmas something really very special for those forced out of work.

Brendan himself was guest of honour at a big banquet in AIB headquarters the other night, for the Guild of Agriculture Journalists awards. His Majesty enjoyed a Seafood starter, quickly followed by a choice of Sole or Steak and rounded off with Apple Crumble and Coffee. There was not even a mouse morsel of cheese in sight.


In relation to quotes from Government opposition members and members of the press, French Queen Marie Antoinette upon learning that the peasants had no bread did not state “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche“, (Translated somewhat incorrectly “Let them eat cake“) as is commonly attributed to her. She displayed, in letters to her family in Austria in 1775 during a series of riots known as the Flour War, (La guerre des farines) an attitude totally different to the ‘Let them eat cake’ mentality. She writes instead “It is quite certain that in seeing the people who treat us so well, despite their own misfortune, we are more obliged than ever to work hard for their happiness. The King (King Louis XVI) seems to understand this truth.

This latter quote should now perhaps become the present coalition governments mentality and would be better than Fianna Fáil’s present rallying cry of “A lot done, more fondue” – or was it to do,“- Sorry folks I’ve really lost track in recent times.

For the benifit of our history readers, this rather callous and ignorant statement, was first written in the Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1769, Quote: “Enfin je me rappelai le pis-aller d’une grande princesse à qui l’on disait que les paysans n’avaient pas de pain, et qui répondit : Qu’ils mangent de la brioche“, which translated is “Finally I recalled the last resort of a great princess who was told that the peasants had no bread, and who responded: “Let them eat brioche...”

There were no actual famines during the reign of King Louis XVI and only two periods of serious bread shortages, which occurred in April and May of 1775. Marie-Antoinette was residing in Austria at the time of this quote in 1769. She did not arrive at Versailles in France until 1770, at the tender age of fourteen.

At the time when this quotation originated, a law had been introduced obliging bakers to sell a superior loaf, for the price of a cheap one, when the cheap variety were all sold out.  This was to eradicate the obvious tricky practice of baking just a few standard loaves, so that one could make more profit by using the rest of the flour for priced unregulated loaves. The quote  “Let them eat cake”  was not therefore being wholly flippant.  The idea was that the bread shortage could be fully alleviated, if the law was enforced against profiteering greedy bakers (not bankers). The brioche referred to actually is not cake at all, but rather this rich French bread, baked using eggs and butter.

We need to open a museum in Dublin to educate future generations on present day appalling stupidity. Exhibits on display could include a Block of Irish Cheese with a poster which states ” Cheese helps the old, the sick and the handicapped”, then throw in some of those out of date Iodine Tablets, a copy of the film “Babe” which was suggested would ruin our cooked ham industry and let us not forget an E Voting Machine.

As they say in France “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” or “The more things change, the more they stay the same.


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